He killed... and there
on the crest of Sierra's highest crag... he must be killed!
1941's High Sierra made Humphrey Bogart a star. Paul Muni
(the original Scarface) was slated for the role, but Bogart won out. It
was Bogart's first starring role, and Ida Lupino (one of Bogart's love
interests) got top billing. Oh well, how many people under the age of
sixty have ever heard of Paul Muni or Ida Lupino?
Bogart portrays ex-con Roy "Mad Dog" Earle. For a guy nicknamed "Mad Dog,"
Roy is pretty much a softy. Sure, he can get tough. Mad Dog bitch-slaps
the first guy he runs into outside the pen just to demonstrate he's no a
pushover. Later he pistol-whips a woman-beater (not quite as graphically
as Ray Liotta in Goodfellas). Still, Bogie is mainly interested in chicks.
And, who can blame him. He's been locked up a long time.
First, Mad Dog grows fond of a young crippled girl with a pretty face. He
befriends her family and learns that they are dirt poor. Dog has a little
extra dough, so he hires a good doctor to fix her club-foot. After that,
she turns into a snooty bitch. She doesn't love Mad Dog, ironically,
because she thinks he's sweet. She has her eye on a playboy, drunk,
asshole she used to date back home. Dog is denied the muffin. But, there's
better muffin out there for a guy like Dog.
Enter Ida Lupino. She's older, but sexier and more Dog's type. She's mixed
up with some gangsters. But none of them have Dog's style. So, he gets the
muffin. Except, back in those days they didn't show it.
High Sierra features the following:
1. A Really Bad Haircut. Mad Dog's head is mercilessly shaved on the sides
compared to the top. You'd think the filmmakers were worried about lice.
2. Two love interests, aforementioned, and need not be re-mentioned.
3. A cool dog (this time the actual canine type) who manages to upstage
most of the actors.
4. A nigger. The film is racist, not me. Dog befriends a black servant
who's eyes bulge out of his head at the whim of the director.
5. An amusing, anti-climactic heist.
5. A mountain car chase. The cars are driving (I swear to god) 300 miles
per hour. It's a hilarious chase accomplished with sped up film.
High Sierra isn't an action packed gangster movie. But it's a solid
marriage between noir and early 1940's morality tale. Therefore, not as
dark as a lot of noir, but unique.